Category: Opinion



Robert Iger stepped aside as chief executive of Walt Disney Co., though he will retain significant power over the company that he expanded into Hollywood’s biggest and most powerful entertainment conglomerate over a more than 14-year tenure.

Disney on Tuesday named the company’s head of parks and resorts, Bob Chapek, CEO effective immediately. But Mr. Iger will stay on as executive chairman, overseeing the company’s creative endeavors through the end of next year, when his contract expires.

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Scramble to contain as infections spread in Europe…

Rome (AFP) – Coronavirus cases spread beyond the outbreak’s European hotspot Italy Wednesday, as the world scrambled to contain the deadly epidemic that is fast growing outside China’s borders.

New cases linked to Italy — the hardest hit European country — have emerged in several countries in Europe and beyond, amid warnings from health experts that nations are not ready to contain a global outbreak.

The novel coronavirus has killed over 2,700 people and infected more than 80,000, the vast majority in China.

But on Wednesday the World Health Organization said more new cases were now being clocked outside China than inside the country, where the deadly virus first emerged in December.

Greece confirmed its first case Wednesday, a woman who had recently travelled to northern Italy; while a suspected case was reported in Brazil — a traveller recently returned from Milan.

If confirmed, it would be Latin America’s fist case of the virus.

Croatia, Austria and Algeria have all reported cases linked to Italy, while a hotel in Spain remained under lockdown Wednesday after an infected Italian tourist was hospitalised with the virus.

A World Health Organization official warned that nations were “simply not ready” to contain the outbreak.

“You have to be ready to manage this at a larger scale… and it has to be done fast,” said WHO’s Bruce Aylward, who headed an international expert mission to China to assess containment measures.

Several governments have advised against travel to Italy, particularly to outbreak epicentre in the north, and introduced checks for passengers arriving from the country.

Italy has confirmed 374 cases of the disease and 12 deaths, and says the virus has spread to some southern regions as well.

– ‘Potential pandemic’ –

But even as new cases continued to multiply beyond China’s borders, the European Union sought to head off hysteria over the outbreak.

“This is a situation of concern but we must not give in to panic,” EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides told reporters in Rome Wednesday.

“We must also be vigilant when it comes to misinformation and disinformation,” she added.

The virus is believed to have emerged in a market in Wuhan city in China’s Hubei province in late 2019, where it may have been transmitted to a human from an animal.

China imposed extraordinary quarantine measures in several cities, locking in tens of millions of people as it sought to spread the virus’ rapid spread.

The country announced Wednesday that people arriving in Beijing from countries hit by the virus epidemic will go into 14-day self-quarantine.

The WHO has praised Beijing for its response, though the communist government has faced criticism at home for silencing a whistleblowing doctor who has since died from the disease.

The WHO has called for countries to “prepare for a potential pandemic” — an epidemic that spreads throughout the world — even as new cases and deaths in China have continued to dip from previous numbers.

It warned that poor countries are particularly at risk, sparking fears of how countries in Latin America and Africa would cope with potential outbreaks.

– US accuses Iran –

In Asia, South Korea remains the worst-affected country after China, with the outbreak traced to a religious sect in the southern city of Daegu.

The city’s streets have been largely deserted for days, apart from long queues at the few shops with masks for sale.

South Korea reported 284 new infections Wednesday — its largest daily increase to date — taking the overall national tally to 1,261, with the death toll rising to 12.

A 23-year-old US soldier stationed at Camp Carroll in Daegu was also infected. Some 28,500 American troops are deployed in South Korea.

Authorities urged the public to exercise extra caution, advising citizens to stay home if they have a fever or respiratory symptoms.

Meanwhile in the Middle East, Iran has emerged as a major hotspot, with a total of 139 cases and 19 deaths.

Even the country’s deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi has said he has contracted the virus.

The country has been straining to contain the epidemic since last week when it announced its first two deaths in Qom, a centre for Islamic studies and pilgrims that attracts scholars from all over the world.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whose country came to the brink of war with Iran earlier this year, said Washington was deeply concerned Tehran “may have suppressed vital details” about the outbreak there.

Several Gulf countries announced new measures to cut links with Iran in an attempt to stop the spread.

In the United States, which has 53 cases, health authorities urged local governments, businesses, and schools to take precautions, including cancelling mass gatherings or working from home.

The WHO’s advice on preventing infection includes regular hand washing and covering the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.


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Spirits rattle and bones crack in nightmarish 'SAINT MAUD' trailer…

New Saint Maud trailer teases nurse’s demonic journey | |

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Carnival float in Spain features Nazi uniforms and trains with crematoria…

JTA — At a carnival procession in Spain, participants dressed like Nazis and Jewish concentration camp prisoners while dancing next to a float evoking crematoria.

The Israeli Embassy in Madrid on Tuesday protested the display this weekend at the annual carnival procession in Campo de Criptana, a town situated about 80 miles southeast of the capital.

“We condemn the vile and repugnant representation that disrespects the victims of the Holocaust,” the embassy wrote on Twitter, “making fun of the murder of millions of Jews by the Nazis. European nations must collectively fight anti-Semitism.”

A video of the procession shows the participants marching in their fake Nazi uniforms. Behind them, dancers wearing striped outfits evoking concentration camp uniforms followed while waving flags of Israel. They were followed by the float shaped like a train locomotive with two large chimneys.

On Sunday, a carnival procession in Aalst, Belgium, featured costumes of ultra-Orthodox Jews depicted as ants. Dozens of other participants wore fake hooked noses based on Jewish stereotypes. One group of participants wore shiny black uniforms and red armbands evocative of Nazi uniforms. A third group dressed as Jews carried a sign that warned readers “not to tell the truth about the Jew.”

Last year, UNESCO dropped the Aalst Carnival from its list of world heritage events over the depiction of Jews in the 2019 procession. It featured a float with effigies of grinning Haredim holding bags of money and one with a rat on its shoulders.

The group that created the float said it was meant to protest the rising cost of living.

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Ugly battles erupt as residents fight housing patients in their cities…

The coronavirus has yet to become a major health threat in Orange County. But a proposal to eventually place some patients at a state-owned facility in Costa Mesa has sparked a political battle in which wary residents are speaking in conspiratorial, even apocalyptic terms.

“Expose the hidden agenda to bring coronavirus into our city,” one wrote on a poster board outside a federal courthouse in Santa Ana on Monday.

“Life will end as we know it,” added another.

At the focus of their fury is a proposal to use the Fairview Developmental Center as a coronavirus quarantine site, a notion that drew swift and fierce condemnation from city, county, state and federal officials representing the area.

It’s likely only the first round in a brewing battle — one pitting higher-level health officials working to stem the spread of the coronavirus known as COVID-19 against the communities expected to play host to those efforts. Officials in Alabama have also been fighting efforts to locate patients in that state, and there even has been rumbling of opposition from people living by quarantine zones near military bases.

But as the number of confirmed cases rockets past 80,000 worldwide, and U.S. health officials warn the disease will inevitably spread stateside at some point, public health experts warn that contending with the fallout from the epidemic’s indirect symptoms — fear, paranoia and misinformation chief among them — may prove just as vital as treating the sickness itself.

“You’re dealing with fear, discrimination and stigma, and that can be much harder to contain and control and move against than the actual virus,” said Dr. Timothy Brewer, a professor of epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and of medicine at the university’s David Geffen School of Medicine. “And that’s the big challenge, because that’s not necessarily a discussion you can win with facts and being rational.”

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered its most serious warning to date that the United States should expect the coronavirus to become a more serious health issue and that it was time to prepare for it.

“Ultimately, we expect we will see coronavirus spread in this country,” said Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “It’s not so much a question of if, but a question of when.”

Stock prices dropped sharply Tuesday for the second consecutive day as investors grew increasingly skeptical that the virus would soon be contained and worried about how much it would damage the global economy.

One element of the response is using sites like Fairview to house patients. The 114-acre property once housed thousands of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities but is now largely empty as the state plans to close the facility.

It’s unclear how many sites are under similar consideration. The California Health and Human Services Agency has confirmed it considered several other possibilities, including the Sonoma Developmental Center, Army National Guard Camp Roberts and closed youth correctional facilities.

“Safely and securely isolating our fellow Californians who are under federal care is an important way to keep all of our communities safe from novel coronavirus, and we will continue to communicate with local partners — both those in Costa Mesa and communities that are being greatly impacted by shortages of hospital isolation beds,” the agency said in a statement.

Regardless, Costa Mesa officials are adamant that Fairview is not a suitable location — citing concerns with public health and a lack of specifics about the proposal. The city has successfully obtained a temporary restraining order to halt the transportation of anyone infected with the coronavirus to the city.

“While we have nothing but compassion for those who are suffering from this virus, the health and welfare of our community is our top priority,” Mayor Katrina Foley said Monday. “Bringing those infected into this densely populated area is simply the wrong approach.”

A similar situation unfolded recently in Alabama, where local and state officials pushed hard against a proposal to potentially locate patients within the city of Anniston.

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said Sunday that he had spoken with President Trump and received assurances that plan was off the table.

Costa Mesa, though, has received no such guarantee — leading some to lob accusations of political favoritism.

“California must not have the pull to get taken off the list,” Jennifer Keller, the city’s attorney, said during a court hearing Monday. “Alabama does.”

Daniel Beck, an attorney for the federal government, said Fairview was “determined to be a superior site,” because the facility has individual rooms with bathrooms attached, which would facilitate isolation and allow several patients to be monitored in a small area.

Of the patients who remain at Travis Air Force Base and hospitals in Northern California, about 10 “units” of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 but do not have symptoms could be isolated at Fairview, Beck added. A unit could be an individual or a family.

While attempting to quell the warring sides, presiding U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton expressed empathy for the patients whose future is hanging in the balance.

“These are American citizens who have been unfortunately … and unfairly inflicted with this virus,” she said. “No one should say, ‘Not in my backyard,’ as a general rule.”

Communities are dealing with the threat in different ways. San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Tuesday declared a local emergency, even though there have been no confirmed cases.

“We see the virus spreading in new parts of the world every day, and we are taking the necessary steps to protect San Franciscans from harm,” she said.

Experts said officials face a difficult balancing act of preparing for the virus while tamping down unfounded fears in the public.

“Fear is part of a survival instinct, so when people are faced with a novel disease like COVID-19, they’re trying to answer basic questions for themselves: ‘Where did the disease come from? How is it spreading? Am I at risk? Is my family at risk?’” said Monica Schoch-Spana, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “Because diseases like COVID-19 are very unfamiliar, what people do is distinguish between ‘us’ and ‘them.’”

That phenomenon played out earlier this month, when workers at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, as well as their families, reported being verbally attacked by people afraid of their proximity to those under quarantine at the base.

“One of the big challenges, whenever you have an outbreak with a new pathogen, is dealing with the fear and the misinformation,” Brewer said. “So right now you have people who are all up in arms in Orange County about a virus that has caused [57] cases — documented cases that we’re aware of — in the United States, and no deaths. At the same time, we’ve had probably 26 million cases of influenza, probably about 14,000 deaths in the United States alone, and I guarantee you that a lot of people who are upset in Orange County have not gotten their flu vaccines. And that’s the disconnect we have.”

During an interview Tuesday, Brewer occasionally had to stop and cough. He’s been under the weather, he said, dealing with an ailment that’s not COVID-19.

“People are very worried about this virus, but they forget about all the other viruses that move around,” he said.

Times Community News staff writer Faith E. Pinho and Times staff writer Colleen Shalby contributed to this report.

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RV Living Grows as Latest Consequence of Housing Crisis…

RV Living Grows as Latest Consequence of Housing Crisis...

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The South Carolina presidential Democratic debate quickly devolved into a scrappy schoolyard screaming match on Tuesday night — all of the candidates furiously talking over each other as the CBS moderators seemed helpless to do anything about it.

CBS News moderators Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell struggled to keep the unruly seven candidates in line as they rushed to attack Bernie Sanders who they now realize is on an unstoppable march to the nomination.

At one point, all of the candidates were wildly flapping their hands and yelling over each other before former veep Joe Biden chastised their on-stage decorum.

“I guess the only way to do this is jump in and speak twice as long as you should,” Biden said as ex South Bend-mayor Pete Buttigieg went on a long sermon about how Sanders would cost Democrats the House majority, a statistic based on polling conducted by Bloomberg’s campaign.

Showing more fire than he has in many debates, Biden shot back when Buttigieg and other candidates tried to cut him off after King has specifically called on him to speak.

“You spoke over your time so I’m going to talk,” the former veep bellowed at the rest of the crowded field to huge cheers from the crowd.

Biden is in a fight for his life in South Carolina ahead of Saturday’s primary, with Sanders and billionaire Tom Steyer swallowing his lead with black voters.

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Seven Democratic candidates for president will meet on the debate stage in Charleston, South Carolina, in a debate hosted by CBS News. It’s the last time the candidates will face off before Saturday’s critical South Carolina primary — and the last one before voters in 16 states and territories go to the polls on Super Tuesday, March 3.

“CBS Evening News” anchor and managing editor Norah O’Donnell and “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King will moderate the debate, joined in questioning by “Face the Nation” moderator and senior foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Brennan, chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett and “60 Minutes” correspondent Bill Whitaker.

Bernie Sanders is the frontrunner after his resounding victory in Nevada, which came after a win in New Hampshire and a popular vote lead in Iowa. 

It’s a must-win state for Joe Biden, who came in fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire before coming in second in Nevada. Biden had a 28-point lead in South Carolina the fall, but has narrowed down to a slim single-digit lead. 

According to the CBS News Battleground Tracker on February 23, Tom Steyer rocketed to third place in the state with 18%, followed by Elizabeth Warren with 12%. 

Pete Buttigieg, who finished with the most delegates in Iowa and second in New Hampshire, also needs a win after finishing third in Nevada. But he was polling fifth in the state with just 10% of the vote. 

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Next-generation Bush runs headlong into Trump's GOP…

Top party strategists believe his profile as the CEO of the largest Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliate in the country, and his family’s long-standing cachet in Texas, is precisely what they need to hold on to the state’s rapidly diversifying suburbs.

But first he has to make it through two rounds of GOP primaries in Donald Trump’s Republican Party, a test of the public’s appetite for a Bush — even in Texas — at a time when his family name has been disparaged by the president.

His predicament is an extreme version of the conundrum plaguing the party in swing districts: The candidate who’s perhaps best positioned to win sometimes struggles to gain traction in a system that rewards blind fealty to the president.

The open-seat race in Texas’ 22nd District, which spans the southern suburbs of Houston, has drawn a massive field of 15 Republicans. Most private polling indicates a fierce three-way battle to advance to a runoff from the March 3 primary, and a very real chance Bush gets boxed out.

His biggest competition: Kathaleen Wall, a Republican megadonor who has dumped millions of her own money on TV ads that heavily feature Trump and her slogan that “This Wall Will Build the Wall,” and Troy Nehls, sheriff of the largest county in the district, who made national news over a Facebook post in which he appeared to threaten disorderly conduct charges against the driver of a car with a profane anti-Trump bumper sticker.

Bush, 33, is facing questions about his level of commitment to Trump and the party’s agenda, fueled in part by his family’s fraught history with the president. He has made clear he is supportive of the president, though his political foes are quick to question the depth of that loyalty.

“It’s an honorable family, this and that,” Nehls said at a campaign fundraiser this month. “But again to try to come into a district that you haven’t lived and to try and convince people that you’re the one that’s going to go up and help Donald Trump accomplish his goals and objectives — I don’t think the people are buying it.”

Bush, who recently moved into the suburban district, has a carefully calibrated message about using conservative ideals to expand opportunity, fight socialism and find a way to ensure the GOP appeals to the changing demographics of the state and the district.

“When my uncle George ran for governor of Texas, nobody thought he could win. And he won by outreaching to all corners of the state,” Bush said in an interview, noting that in his uncle’s 1998 reelection campaign, he garnered nearly 50 percent of the Hispanic vote in the state.

“The guy embodied what it meant to be a compassionate leader, and someone who is really conclusive and understood that we have to be a big-tent party,” he said. “And, I don’t know — I just fundamentally believe that we have to embody that same strategy again.”

Bush is adamant his political worldview — and Texas’ lurch to the middle since 2016 — is not a rejection of Trump. He is quick to heap praise on the president’s economic record and job creation and predicts he will be handily reelected in November.

But looming over his campaign is the question of the staying power of the Bush brand, even in Texas. And his grandfather’s and uncles’ open distaste for Trump puts him in somewhat of a bind.

While canvassing one weekend this month in Pearland with his wife, Sarahbeth, and their Instagram-famous dog, Winston Moose, it took only a few minutes for Bush to run into a voter who called his grandfather “a good man.” But, he said, he would not be supporting any Republican for Congress.

“He was a good man, but why can’t you vote for us?” Bush asked.

The reply: “Because I don’t support the individual at the top.”

Bush takes family comments in stride and has a polite and friendly campaign-style. (He apologized for asking people to talk politics on a recent Saturday, gives his cell phone number to voters and leaves notes on campaign literature at houses where no one is home.)

Later, in another neighborhood, Bush knocked on the door of Jason Franco, a veteran who said he was “full Trump” and alluded to the Bush family’s skepticism of the current president. “Every family, though, has their own opinions,” Bush told him, prompting agreement from Franco.

Bush’s Republican opponents suggest his support for Trump is disingenuous. Some have highlighted a Facebook photo he posted in January 2017 that shows Bush and his sister at a New York march protesting Trump’s immigration policies.

Knowing that Trump would handily win Texas and out of concern about the tone of the 2016 race, Bush did not cast a vote in the presidential election but voted straight Republican down the ballot. He has since been very impressed with Trump, he said, particularly his economic achievements. He called Trump the right president for the current political climate — just as Ronald Reagan was the “perfect president” to bring down the Soviet Union, and his grandfather was “the perfect person” to end the Cold War.

“I think we needed a disrupter,” he said.

As for immigration, Bush said at a forum earlier this month he was against religious litmus tests when Trump first unveiled the “Muslim ban” but noted the policy had been reformed several times since it was first implemented. He defended Trump, citing his access to classified intelligence about the threats facing the country. “I’ve been honored to be close to some presidents during some really tough times, and the people that are in those rooms needed to be trusted,” he said.

But voters in this former GOP bastion are more skeptical of Trump, and Democrats see an opportunity to pad their House majority and inch closer to potentially putting Texas in play statewide. While Mitt Romney won the district by 25 points in 2012, Trump carried it by just 8 four years later. In 2018, Sen. Ted Cruz won by less than a point, and Rep. Pete Olson, the incumbent, is retiring this year after watching his victory margin fall from 19 points in 2016 to just 5 points last cycle.

Sri Kulkarni, a former foreign-service officer, is running again after a narrow loss and is redoubling his efforts to turn out new Democratic voters. Only 41 percent of the district’s residents are white, and Kulkarni has taken a particular focus on reaching out to new immigrants. In an interview after a meet-and-greet event, he suggested Bush was straddling an impossible line.

“You’ve got to choose whether you agree with the direction the Republican Party has gone, or not,” Kulkarni said. “You can’t just say, ‘Well, I 100 percent support Trump, and I’m inclusive.’ Those two things are not mutually compatible.”

Bush leans heavily on his non-profit background to set him apart in a crowded race. He joined Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star as a volunteer before rising through the ranks, and the Houston Chronicle touted his leadership of the group as part of the reasoning behind their recent endorsement.

Yet some prominent Houston Democrats who knew him through nonprofit circles said they were taken aback by his strong praise for Trump and his TV-ad pledge to “deport criminal illegals.”

“I’ve met him on more than one occasion — and, frankly, it’s been a surprise to me to hear his views on some stands knowing his Big Brothers Big Sisters sort-of philanthropic side,” said Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), a long-time Houston politician who endorsed Kulkarni. “He has said some things that are concerning. It appears to be, like, out of character.”

Still, Bush clearly has a rapport with many of the immigrant communities in the district and appears to conduct more outreach than his leading rivals. He spent a recent Sunday bouncing between events hosted by two different minority groups.

Privately, some Republicans worry neither Nehls nor Wall will be able to gain traction in such a diverse district. Democrats plan to exploit both as immigration hard-liners. Nehls, the Fort Bend County sheriff, boasted in an interview of his record “of locking over 2,500 criminal illegal aliens in our jail and holding them for ICE.” Wall is attempting to position herself to Nehl’s right on the issue.

But both have perhaps a clearer shot to the runoff than Bush, who didn’t enter the race until just before the mid-December filing deadline. Wall has substantial name ID after a failed 2018 run in a neighboring district, and Nehls has a formidable base in Fort Bend.

Advocates for all of the top candidates have pitched people in the president’s political orbit on an endorsement, according to a source familiar with those conversations, though Trump has stayed out of the race thus far.

Bush’s path to victory is likely to raise the turnout in the March 3 race beyond the GOP activist class, and an early-vote analysis conducted by the Bush campaign found that 20 percent of Republicans who have voted early so far are participating in a Texas GOP primary for the first time. He also benefits from a super PAC advertising on his behalf.

Throughout the campaign he has deployed Uncle George W. Bush’s refrain that he gained half of his father’s friends when he entered politics as the son of a president — but all of his enemies.

The question now is how many friends remain in the Trump era.

At a recent crawfish boil fundraiser for Nehls, Mike Richards, a former state senator and radio host, said he was a longtime supporter of both Bush presidents, but that he could not endorse “the progeny” after the 2016 election.

Richards said he could no longer even bear to display a photo of him and his wife with George H.W. Bush.

“When he said that he voted for Hillary Clinton,” Richards said, “I took that picture down.”

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